Q. 1. Is it true that if someone is divorced, that person cannot join the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults? If so, what is the reason behind this rule?
A. 1. Yes, it is true that in most cases, someone wishing to join the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (R.C.I.A.) must not be under a divorce status. That person should initiate a marriage annulment and wait for its result prior to joining the R.C.I.A.
History has shown that in many cases, when a person joins the R.C.I.A. while under a divorce status, within a short period of time, that person want to remarry. Obstacles that they may face are: their marriage annulment application was rejected, or the individual did not make an application to have his/her marriage annulled, or the individual was impatient regarding the time frame required to process a marriage annulment. Consequently, these individuals marry outside the Church, often before a Justice of the Peace. Marriage before a Justice of the Peace is not considered as a valid marriage by the Catholic Church. This means that the couple will now be living in a state of mortal sin and will no longer be able to receive the Sacraments.
Common sense dictates that in order to avoid the aforementioned situations, those wishing to join the R.C.I.A. should get their lives in order prior to doing so. To prevent a situation where someone may turn to a life of mortal sin shortly after having joined the Catholic Church, individuals are asked to deal with their status of divorce prior to making any other commitment.
As with many situations, there is an exception to this rule. In the situation of an older person, if that person has no intent of marrying in the future, especially in a case where the person has lived alone for a number of years, then that person should be able to join the R.C.I.A. even if that person remains under a divorce status. There are situations where individuals firmly support the biblical teaching that marriage is for life. Although their partner initiated a divorce, they refuse to get remarried.